Why Microsoft is the new Apple

Frank
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The last few weeks has been pretty eventful within the Apple universe. The release of the iPhone 5 shattered all sales records (no surprise there), and this past week marked one year since the death of Steve Jobs. So far the iPhone 5 has garnered mixed reviews. Some, like ZDNet’s Matthew Miller, described the announcement as underwhelming, while others, especially the whopping 5 million sold in three days, suggest this is the best smartphone ever.

The smartphone market is nearly as divided as the politcal landscape, and a large group of the “undecided” voters felt like this new upgrade was missing something. The lack of enthusiasm surrounding these annual announcements can be attributed to a few problems. First, weeks and sometimes months prior, blurry photos of critical components of the rumored phone circulate the internet. By the week of the release, 80% of the consumers know exactly what the new iPhone will be. Second, its difficult to improve a near perfect device. The original iPhone was missing a number of options that seemed obvious. The jump to the iPhone 3G was so exciting because it not only improved on what worked, but it fixed what didn’t. (Headphone jack adapter anyone?) There was very little “wrong” with the iPhone 4, and true to all Apple devices, it just worked. If it ain’t broke… Yet, it just feels like somethings missing. iOS hasn’t changed its user interface in six iterations and the skeuomorphism is beginning to look stale.

This staleness is what’s opening the door for Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft, the company that is known for its awful looking, and virus-friendly operating system Windows. Yet, there has been a resurgence from this once great company, with Windows Phone and Windows 8, and it was all started by the Xbox.

Microsoft has turned their gaming device into an affordable HD media center. While most perceive the Xbox as a toy, users have discovered Internet Explorer, YouTube, Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, MLB TV, and a host of network apps built right into its beautiful Metro user interface. The sales of the device reflect this, in July of 2012, the Xbox marked its 19th consecutive month as the top selling console, with a total retail of $218 million.

Using the Xbox as an inspiration, Microsoft developed the Metro interface for Windows Phone and the upcoming release of Windows 8. The interface is clearly built for touch screens, which will work perfectly on the new $199 Microsoft Surface. I have been a Windows phone user for over a year, and its not perfect. The UI is great to look at and basic functions like checking Twitter or Facebook are made a lot quicker by the People app, which combines your address book with your social media feeds. By integrating app like functionality in native features, Microsoft has helped soften the blow dealt by uninterested third-party developers.

Most people have heard of the Kinect as a tool for enhancing video gaming, but Microsoft has opened up its development so third parties can take advantage of this revolutionary tool. With the Xbox, Microsoft succeeded where Apple TV failed. Now, with the upcoming Microsoft SmartGlass, they are taking home entertainment to a new level. The cross platform tablet and mobile app “lets users view and interact with new content in association with games and video on their console”. (via the Verge)

Apple will continue to dominate the smartphone market, and the Surface may not put a dent in the iPad sales, but Microsoft is clearly pushing home entertainment and mobile devices into a future that none of us had thought of yet. For Apple, its difficult to show us the future if we’ve already seen it in blurry photos from a Foxconn factory.

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